School Closings Negatively Affect Female Employment

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

by D.J. Rippert

Mom at home. An article from The Center Square summarizes a number of studies relating COVID-19, school policies during the pandemic, and the number of women in the workforce. A study by the journal “Gender & Society” characterized the matter as a “tidal wave of women” leaving the workforce in 2020. Center Square notes that, “Researchers found that women primarily left the workforce (in addition to layoffs and job closures) to help educate their children when schools reverted to virtual learning and children were no longer physically at school.” Statistics indicate that the employment gap between mothers and fathers was less in states where the schools stayed open for in-person instruction, either full-time or part-time. As the article states, “But the gap grew by an average of 5% in states where only virtual learning was offered, such as in California, Delaware and Virginia.”

Fear porn. It now seems obvious that there was never a science-based reason to close the schools to in-person learning over the 2020-2021 academic year. As long ago as last October NPR published an article citing school systems around the world reopening for in-person teaching without adverse effects. School systems in Virginia that were open to full-time and part-time in-person learning did not experience appreciable issues. Yet many of Virginia’s largest school districts remained closed despite the evidence of safety. Beyond the serious, negative impact of school closings on children those policies also had a negative impact on the working mothers of those children. Reopening the schools early would have helped. As Gender & Society reported, “In Canada, for instance, Fuller and Qian investigated the gender gap in employment among parents of young children. They draw on monthly data from Canada’s Labour Force Survey during February through October 2020. They find that gender employment gaps among parents first widened when child care and schools closed but narrowed with reopening of schools and increased availability of child care options.”

The Wizard of Richmond. Ralph Northam’s inept and erratic approach to COVID-19 restrictions left the state far worse off than would have been the case with a competent approach. Northam zig-zagged from extreme restrictions to insisting that he had no power over the schools. Predictably, Northam was more interested in pandering to his grass roots supporters within the teachers’ associations than he was interested in the overall welfare of students or working mothers. As long ago as January the CDC gave plain guidance that schools could safely reopen. By February the CDC was clear — schools could reopen before teachers and staff were vaccinated. Yet in places like Fairfax County, Loudoun County and Arlington County the schools remained almost totally shuttered. For the sake of the children and working mothers those schools should have reopened for full-time, in-person learning. Unfortunately, our governor channeled the heartless tin man, brainless scarecrow and gutless lion as he sat behind the curtain pulling all kinds of restriction levers while leaving the schools closed. Even today, Northam remains confused. The Wizard of Richmond’s proclamations seem to conflict with his own state government’s Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI).

Elections have consequences. The incompetence of the Democratic Governor, General Assembly and School Boards will be on full display as this fall’s elections draw closer. As Pete Snyder, a candidate who lost out to Glenn Younkin, put it, “Richmond liberals want to ‘follow the science’ until the science doesn’t align with their special interests’ partisan games. It’s crystal clear that Terry and all the Democrats running for governor would rather line their campaign pockets than stand up to the special interests and open our schools.”  Younkin himself was equally emphatic, saying, “The Democrat politicians in Virginia are failing parents because they’re too afraid to confront the special interest groups blocking the schoolhouse doors. It’s crazy and it’s shameful.”

For his part, McAuliffe has admitted that the school closings were harmful to children but has been stone silent on whether he would have done more as governor to reopen the schools. It seems there are two gutless lions in this Oz.

By Don Rippert